and Kentucky native Keith Medley came to the attention of mwe3.com
thanks to his appearance on a fantastic guitar collection simply called
That track Father Red Tail is one of the tracks on
Keiths latest solo CD, Ride. Like his
track on The Guitar, all of the instrumentals on Ride are
fantastic, atmospheric, acoustic based guitar guitar journeys that
strongly feature his 27 string guitar sound. Even though the CD was
released a couple years ago, it has an elegant, timeless sort of vibe
to it that should appeal to guitar fans the world over. Commenting
on the musical inspiration behind the Ride CD in the following
interview, Keith told mwe3.com, Music isn't some far off
mindset segregated from everything else in my normal everyday life.
It's all connected together which provides me with plenty of creative
emotional takeaways I can capture and release it in a form of music
that has some chance of being related to. Ride isnt
filled with a lot of synth wizardry but Keith's guitars are tastefully
accompanied by some electronic backing. Its Keith Medleys
guitars and the way his album was recorded, mixed and mastered that
will make Ride of interest to guitar fans. www.KeithMedleyMusic.com
mwe3.com resents an interview
Can you tell the readers where youre from originally and where
youre living now and what you like best about it? How do you
draw on inspirations from your surroundings and how does it influence
Keith Medley: I'm originally from St. Joseph, Kentucky, a small
community out a ways from Owensboro. Within a few months after high
school I moved to the Nashville area with a couple of high school
friends who were also musicians. They moved on years ago but I found
myself sticking around middle Tennessee close to Nashville after meeting
my wife and started our family there. It's a great creative atmosphere
in the midst of a bunch of incredibly talented and wonderful people.
As far as inspiration goes, music isn't some far off mindset segregated
from everything else in my normal everyday life. It's all connected
together which provides me with plenty of creative emotional takeaways
I can capture and release it in a form of music that has some chance
of being related to. Inspiration always appears to be present and
always waiting on me if I simply stop and can clear my head long enough
allowing myself to touch base with old or present feeling, new experiences
or ideas. Most of the time I don't have an instrument in my hands
when that occurs because a life thing happens without announcement
and sometimes music just shows up with the experience or thought.
I use my iPhone voice recorder to hum any spontaneous melodies and
ideas into so I can remember it later-it comes in pretty handy.
mwe3: When did you start playing guitar and what were your
early musical studies like? Which musicians and bands inspired you
to play guitar in the first place and what guitarists and bands do
you enjoy listening to today? Does your musical taste vary from genre
to genre - say from other forms of instrumental guitar music to progressive
rock and even classical?
Medley: My granddad started me out playing while he played fiddle
when I was about 4 or so according to some family; I don't remember
not playing really so I'll take their word for it. I was self taught
from there delving into any style I came across I considered interesting
and musical at the time. So there were no formal studies only a desire
to listen to and make music I found appealing. My family really were
the first to inspire me to play. Since I was real young they always
encouraged me to grow and explore by introducing me to everything
out there at the time. As a teenage though I went through all the
popular music from Led Zeppelin to James Taylor but the big awaking
didn't happen until I heard the Dixie Dregs in the mid 1970's. I wasn't
a singer so this really appealed to me as an instrumentalist. This
experience moved me to Chic Corea, Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin, Paco
De Lucia, whom I still listen to. My taste in music has become more
broad as the years have gone by. I listen to more imagery music from
arrangement composers like Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, and James Newton
Howard. I don't really have a loyalty to one genre but I do like pieces
from all of it; sorta like the tunes you favor on any CD. I still
have to have my Michael Hedges fix who was a great inspiration in
the 1980's. Sting is a favorite. Joe Pass jazz, Robin Ford style blues
and Pink Floyd are a must. Solo bass great Michael Manring's wizardry
has deep musical content that I've admired for decades. If it's good
and speaks to me then I'm all about it. There is a band I just got
introduced to called Dirty Loops who I have to say is the most exciting
thing I've heard since the Dixie Dregs. These guys are ace musicians.
mwe3: What were some of the key events leading up to the release
of your Ride CD? When was the music written and recorded,
why do you call the CD Ride and who else was involved in the
recording, production and post production of the CD?
Medley: The biggest event I suppose is when I completed building
the 27 string. Chuck Butler, a friend and songwriter/producer was
kind enough to ask if I wanted to record it at his place on his Mac
and so we worked it in as I was familiarizing myself the instrument.
It took almost 2 years recording a song here and there as our schedules
would allow, besides there was no set agenda at that point. Sometimes
I wouldn't have the final arrangement in my head until I was in the
car making the trip to Chucks studio and even then had to work out
the bugs on the fly. A couple of the songs from the Ride CD
are from my 6 string arrangements from tunes written in the late 1990's
but the rest were written in the past few years on the 27 string.
The title track is called Ride and is a song I wrote as
a birthday gift for my wife several years ago. She is a horse enthusiast
who was at the time absent a horse so the best I could do is give
her this tune with a picture of a horse along with a poem about a
horse and a sword. (Long story but it's on the website). Chuck mixed
everything down and my friend and ex-veteran of Crown Audio Steve
Mills offered to do the mastering. Then back to Chuck for the website
How was the Ride CD created? Were there a lot of overdubs or
was it mostly cut live? Tell us something about your recording studio
and some of the sonic effects you use to enhance the wide screen spaciousness
of your guitar and recorded sound.
Keith Medley: I built the 27 String with 3 separate preamps;
one for each string grouping: the 9 bass strings, the 6 string, and
the 12 high strings all meant to be played together as one instrument
instead of addressing it as three. Those were plugged into 3 different
channels along with a fourth channel running a large diaphragm mic
sitting right in front to capture the overall acoustic qualities.
There was some synth pads and rhythm tracks Chuck masterfully inserted
but no overdubbing so when I play live it justifies the instrument
and gave me the ability to perform without the tracks. We actually
started out to record just the instrument but realized after messing
with some backing grooves I was using as a click track the tunes were
very production friendly so we re-recorded everything to work in the
groove arrangements. As we were discussing plugin effects and arrangement
we were conscience to keep it simple and not over produce. Chuck cruised
through his library and we found just the right grooves and sounds
to accent dynamic cues. Most of the effects are simply delays, reverbs
and a chorus that I can reproduce live with stomp pedals. I can not
thank Chuck enough for his faith and effort.
How long have you been a guitar builder, and how did you get into
creating guitars? How many guitars have you built and what craftsmen
do you draw on for inspiration when you build guitars?
Keith Medley: In fairness, I consider myself more of a woodworker
that happens to play and build guitars mainly because, like with music,
I was also unschooled in guitar building too so I kinda figured it
out as I went. My dad was a great craftsman and turned me loose with
hand tools at an early age so I knew my way sound a shop. When I was
a teen I took my guitar in for a fret dress and when I got it back
it was trashed out. I hit the ceiling and determined then I'd start
doing my own repairs which soon lead me to building. I'm not sure
how many I've built over the years but its been a bunch. I had my
own shop in the mid 1990's building solid body instruments and doing
manufacturing consulting for several instrument companies and other
small shops. I still enjoy doing restorations on vintage pieces when
I get the time.
mwe3: Can you tell the readers about your 27 string guitar?
When did you get the idea to build the instrument and how is it different
from a harp guitar?
Keith Medley: In the 1970's me and my buddy's would talk about
what kind of hot rod car we'd have and all the bells and whistles
we'd customize it with if we ever had the money. Some of us carried
the conversation to guitars around that same time. I presented my
ultimate guitar as one with 4 necks and a harp on the top bout. I
still have the original sketch splotched a bit with pizza grease.
Since 4 necks could only be played one at a time for the most part
it became illogical but once I saw a pic in about 1981 of an old Dyer
harp guitar from the 1920's that helped me define more about what
I wanted it to be and what I wanted to do with it, now the concept
became more defined and continued to do so until 2007 I was ready
to build. After I began the construction it only took exactly 2 months
to complete and string up.
What are the various tunings for the 27 string guitar and what are
the challenges involved in tuning the 27 string, say compared to a
regular 6 string and 12 string guitar? What kind of strings do you
use and how about picking the strings? I saw you mainly use your right
hand for picking. Is it possible to use plectrums or picks to change
the sound of the 27 string guitar?
Keith Medley: Since I tune down the strings after playing or
practicing it takes me under 5 minutes to tune back up and that's
with a tuner. As far as the tunings they are endless. I have several
modes that help me get to where I need to be for a particular tune.
I use DiAddario phosphor bronze guitar and bass strings. The 9 bass
strings go from a diameter of .034"-.100". The standard
6 goes from .014-.080 and the 12 trebles go from all plain .017-.009.
I use brushed on acrylic nails on all five fingers on my right hand
and rarely use a regular pick when I'm playing the 27 string but am
currently developing my index finger nail to use in the same way as
a pick; it's a bit harder than it sounds.
mwe3: What other guitars are you fond of, including nylon,
steel strings 6 & 12 strings and electric guitars? Do you own
and play some of those guitars or mostly the 27 string?
Keith Medley: I have an Alvarez Yari classical from 1982 that
is priceless to me. When the kids were babies they would see it in
the corner and teethe around the edges so there are these little teeth
marks from all of them on it. I still have some of my electrics I
used to build too. Also a Koa wood resonator I made years ago and
lately the little sister to the 27; a 6 string with 6 string bass
with Purple Heart wood features jumbo frets with White Bronze Strings.
And a 35" 5 string neck thru bass I built 10 years ago that's
great to work out on.
How do you stay in shape musically? Do you practice guitar or spend
most of the time writing, recording and/or building instruments?
Keith Medley: To stay in shape with reading you read and comprehend;
I stay in shape musically similarly by listening and playing. I have
to make time for it all which is usually after everyone goes to bed
in the evening. If I keep part of my practices around playing other
styles it keeps it all in the mix to draw on later so I make sure
to throw some shred, and chicken picking in for perspective and contrast;
my classical guitar is never in the case but sits atop of my dresser
beside the bed or in a corner so I can grab it on a whim.
mwe3: What do you do to relax during your down time or is it
music and guitars 24/7? Do you have hobbies or other extracurricular
activities? How do you recharge yourself as a human being so you can
improve both as a musician and composer / guitar builder?
Medley: I have 2 teenage girls and a 11 year old son to keep me
engaged. We pop some corn and watch DVD movies as a family on a specific
night. I very rarely watch any TV outside of that. Relaxing comes
in the form of reading some of the classics and other history type
essays, engaging in my kids interests and having tea and long conversations
with my wife which all in itself may improve me as a father, and husband
and by those priorities has a chance of improving everything else
including the music and its power.
mwe3: What other sonic mountains are there still to climb and
what other plans do you have for the rest of 2014 and into 2015? I
hope there will be a follow up to the Ride CD.
Keith Medley: This year I finished the 27 string's little sister
which is a 12 string harp guitar style with 6 bass strings and 6 standard.
I'm building a solid body 29 string and another 12 string fret less
harp guitar that
has a partial fingerboard under some of the bass side strings to help
me migrate into more of the jazz and classical type underpinnings
now that the multi-strings are more intuitive to me now. Songs for
the second CD are written and are a follow up in the range a feel
of the Ride CD but only half are recorded. Working on setting some
touring up and meeting the excellent folks who have been incredibly
encouraging and supportive through the unfolding of this adventure.
Thank you mwe3!
Thanks to Keith
Medley and Alejandro